Sunday, July 14, 2013

Dr. Amar Bose has died

Way back before the Acoustimass series of apartment-dweller surround sound systems, Dr. Bose introduced the world to Direct-Reflecting sound with the 901 series and its commercial equivalent.

The speakers were odd, even in the 1970s when there were many odd speakers like the Klipschorn.  Most people wanted big speakers or tall speakers.  They didn't understand Direct-Reflecting speakers, and the time of home theatre had not yet arrived.

About the same time, I saw my first 72 inch projection TV.  It was horribly fuzzy, in a way that a US$50 TV would not be today, even with an analog signal.

In 1978, the world wasn't ready for the technology but in Japan, Panasonic was displaying HDTV prototypes.

I fell in love with the 501 series as it was an affordable substitute for the 901 series.  There was even the bookshelf version of the speakers, the 301 series.

This week, at 83, Dr. Bose has died.

He had degrees from MIT and also taught at MIT.

Most people have no clue about his early work or his commercial products.  They focus on the work of the company starting with the Acoustimass series, which to me, was at best, a huge compromise to fit a 400 sq. ft. apartment that you might find in Manhattan (New York City), and at worst, a joke.  Subsequent marketing produced a number of so-so products, but the original 901 series continued to be improved.

I was most impressed when I was watching a movie on Laserdisc around 1992, and the digital sound was so life-like that I picked up my beeper/pager thinking that it had an alert, but it was a beeper in the movie.  I can't think of another brand that had sound so clear.

Was it the end-all-be-all for rock music?  Of course not.  JBL did that.  Unfortunately, time has caught up and with home theater amplifiers and receivers, there aren't the correct connections to use the 901s.  I still use a pair of 601s as my rear surround speakers, and I need to replace them, as well.  They've all served me well.

So, here is to Dr. Bose for his fine work in spatial audio, opening a small room into a virtually much larger room, and I'm sure that kind of technology has been replicated in every sound bar today.  He did a lot for the world of audio that most consumers would only recognize when they heard it.

Update 2014.05.04: I was in a Bose store the other day.  Obviously, things have changed a lot since the 1970s when the 301, 501, and 901 series were sold in electronics stores.  The Cinemate 1 SP soundbar + bass unit was impressive.  It also reminded me of all the various sound bars using a variation of Direct/Reflecting technology.

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